German Doctors

The Doctors for Developing Countries committee:

Every three seconds a child dies due to the lack of life-saving assistance and medication. That is approximately 30,000 children a day – yesterday, today, tomorrow. They die of diarrhoea because they and their parents do not have access to clean drinking water. Or they die of infectious diseases that are long forgotten in Europe, such as measles, whooping cough, tetanus or diphtheria. Twenty years ago, in refugee camps in Somalia, I experienced how a doctor can often be of help, even with only modest supplies, and is even able to save lives. At the time, I was the coordinator of the Cap Anamur committee.

In the face of mass suffering in the Third World, I decided to set up an aid organisation with German doctors in 1983. The idea was to accept missions that lasted for a minimum of one and half months. This enables doctors to use their annual holiday to assist in needy and poor areas of the Third World without having to “give up” their jobs. However, they are required to work without remuneration and to pay at least half of their airfare to the relevant project country themselves. No expenses will be paid, nor will people be compensated for their time and effort. We now support nine medical aid projects in various countries of the Third World - in India, Bangladesh, Nicaragua, Kenya and in the Philippines.

In spite of the “tough” criteria for a medical aid mission, we have always found willing volunteers. When the newly retired paediatrician Dr Dorothea Woiczechowski from Tirschenreuth flew to Nairobi on the 4 March of this year on her fourth voluntary aid mission, it was the 3,500th mission that was carried out by a German doctor in an area of the Third World with poor medical services since the medical aid organisation came into existence.

The majority of the doctors go on more than just one mission. One in three of the doctors has already worked on a number of similar missions. As a result of this commitment, we are able to constantly send several doctors to the overpopulated slums of huge cities in the Third World on fixed long-term projects. They work on location, primarily with local nurses and local aid workers. The local employees are indispensable links for us and translators, who facilitate an understanding and appreciation of the foreign culture and other social matters.

It is better to turn on a light than complain about the darkness. As you read these lines, somewhere in the world 37 doctors are working voluntarily for people who are not able to help themselves – for people who are suffering. They are helping people with their medical skills and giving people hope.